How to File Auto Insurance Claims

Joe College owns a jalopy—one of Henry Ford’s best Model A’s —worth $175. He has it fixed up real nice. Some thoughtless but insured motorist knocks the shiny Model A into shambles. It would cost $275 to fix up the car.

Poor Joe College runs smack up against the hard rule of law that in no event can he recover more than the value of the Ford before the accident, namely $175. Total loss. In the case of total loss or destruction of an auto-mobile, you cannot recover “loss of use.” The measure of damages is the reasonable value of the property at the time of the loss.

Normally you think of total loss as meaning demolished or unrepairable. In the claims business total loss simply means the car is not worth repairing—from a dollar and cents point of view.

Your car was worth $700 before the accident. After the accident it has a salvage value of $200—a loss of $500. Repair estimates show it would cost $600 to fix it up.

To the insurance adjuster, your car is a total loss. He will pay you $500—not $600. You can get the other $200 from the salvage man.

When repairs can be started. Many people believe they must wait for an adjuster to examine the damage before they can have their car repaired. This is true when the claim is against your own insurance company. Your “collision” or “comprehensive”

policy states that you must wait a reasonable time for your insurance company to inspect the loss.
When, however, you are making a liability claim against the party responsible for your damage, you can have your car repaired as soon as you like. After all, it is your car. You are under no obligation to the wrongdoer or his insurance company.

You stop for a red light and your car is struck from the rear by Jones’ car. No need to wait for Jones’ insurance company to send an adjuster to appraise your damage. You may drive your car directly to a garage and have it fixed.

Towing charges. Necessary expenses such as towing, mechanic’s time in going after a damaged vehicle, and expenses in protecting your property from further damage are generally allowed (in addition to the other items of damage mentioned above).

Damage to property other than automobiles. The foregoing rules apply to other forms of property such as houses or buildings, contents of trucks, trailers, household goods, domestic animals, machines, farm produce and the like. Clothing or whatever else you may have on your person such as jewelry (even your false teeth) are classed as personal property. Their value or cost of repair is allowed as an item of damage.

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